The first release of Tales of Symphonia was 2003 in Japan with it coming to North America just a year later and taking JRPG fans by storm. While the Tales Of series had been around since the Super Nintendo days, none of them hit as fast and hard as Symphonia. It went on to have the highest sales for a Tales title at the time for North America and gain a large amount of fans of the series for years to come. In Japan it would also see a PS2 port which added new content that wouldn’t see the light of day in English until ten years later in the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles port which featured it and its sequel, and now another nine years later where we’ve finally come to Tales of Symphonia Remastered. While the title has had a lot of acclaim throughout the years, one has to wonder now nearly twenty years later just how well does this classic title hold up?
The story begins with a young boy by the name of Lloyd Irving living in a small town alongside his best friends Genis and Colette. Colette is the chosen of regeneration who was ordained at birth to be the one who will regenerate the world and help save the people from a nefarious group known as Desians and keep the world from descending into chaos as mana slowly disappears. After the Tower of Salvation appears in the sky, it becomes clear that it’s time for Colette to begin her journey to regenerate the world. While Lloyd and Genis aren’t initially able to join along with her after her abrupt departure, a deadly series of events on their village sees the two boys outcast and they decide to catch up with her and see the regeneration through to the end. The journey sees Colette praying holy seals and slowly becoming an angel, but the further into their journey they go the more things just don’t seem to be as amazing as they appear. Things just don’t seem to add up, but with their world in decline they still want to see things through to the end. What fate awaits them will soon be uncovered as they continue to try and save the world of Sylvarant they love so much.
The basic combat of Symphonia will be somewhat familiar to anyone who has picked up any title in the series prior to Arise. Combat consists of attacks and techs which can be combined together for small combo hits. Techs act like both magic and special attacks depending on the character and use up TP, or tech points, in order to pull off. TP can be restored by hitting enemies with normal attacks, with items or a small amount at the end of every successful fight. Players will typically take control of one player of their choosing, but it’s worth noting that Symphonia does also support local co-op with up to four players at once for those who want to give it a whirl with friends. While the combat itself is simplistic, it does offer some small depths such as this version having Unison Attacks that can be used after the Unison Gauge is filled, and Mystic Artes which can be earned and used in specific situations throughout the story. Like many RPGs there’s also options for strategies AI-controlled characters will take such as priority for attack and healing. One of the best features Tales has is that equipment can be freely changed in the midst of combat, which comes in handy when going up against bosses that have elemental attacks to help defend against or ailments such as poison that can be blocked with a change in gear. The combat itself never gets too flashy, but it can feel clunky to get used to at first especially for newer players who may be more used to modern Tales Of titles.
Exploration takes place in two different ways; wandering across a large over world and entering towns or dungeons. Dungeons are the meat of the adventure and where the title shines most. Each dungeon manages to feel unique with a variety of puzzles and enemies to fight along the way. Enemies can also drop materials to craft stronger gear, or it can be purchased throughout the journey. None of the puzzles tend to be terribly complex, but it gives players something to work towards with treasure chests scattered throughout that require extra work to get. There’s also plenty to be offered in replay value as some things are either missable or require multiple playthroughs to obtain absolutely everything, and with the GRADE system encouraging not just multiple playthroughs but mastering of the combat system to earn points, there’s plenty of value in picking it up again after the story has been completed.
This remastered version of Symphonia is perfectly fine on the eyes. There are textures that could have used more work, but most of the key locations look solid and character models are more expressive and detailed than before simply due to being more crisp and clear. The soundtrack is still fantastic as it ever was and both English and Japanese audio options are a wonderful choice. Perhaps the biggest downside of this port are issues that never existed before that have potential big problems for players. Throughout the playthrough for review, Symphonia crashed during every single play session. This was usually after one to three hours of playtime and would occur when going into a loading zone. Regardless it began to set fear into every loading screen, especially when some of the larger cities experience a slight freeze before the character entering animation finishes. It made saving a mandatory event because there’s no auto-save to be backup in case of a crash, and the only saving grace was that saving on the overworld is allowed, but inside dungeons and cities can only be done at save points. Attempts were made to see if this issue could be solved by moving the title location from the SD card on Switch to the internal memory, but it seemed to make no difference. There’s also random slowdown at certain points such as one room in an early dungeon and random fights against enemies that make it feel like the characters are moving through molasses. These are the only glaring issues in the remaster that should addressed immediately, as this is a long story that no one would want to lose hours of play time to a random crash or random slowdown.
Tales of Symphonia is still one of the biggest highlights in the series with a fantastic assortment of characters, some simple but enjoyable combat and great story to keep players invested throughout. What hurts is that this remastered version has glaring issues that need to be fixed. It’s far from making it impossible to recommend, in fact we still absolutely would for those who haven’t ever played it before, but without autosave and with multiple recorded crashes experienced, it’s hard to tell people to run out and pick it up immediately without proper patches to work out the bigger issues here. With fixes to address the problems, Tales of Symphonia Remastered could easily be considered another fantastic port on modern systems that we hope to continue to see more of from Bandai Namco.